Study of the Main Challenges and Strategies to Attract Foreign Students by Using the Technique of Focus Groups


Higher education in the 21st century is one of the most important factors affecting every society. One of the major challenges of higher education in the new millennium is to attract foreign students into the host countries. This article reviews the challenges and strategies for the Islamic Republic of Iran in attracting foreign students and scholars through a qualitative study using focus groups. The population studied consisted of officials, experts, professionals and faculty members involved in academic and administrative activities related to the foreign students. The sample consisted of two groups: 18 participants consisting of authorities and relevant experts in the field of foreign students, Ministry of Science, Research and Technology and other important institutions of higher education and 16 participants composed of researchers and faculty members working in the field of foreign students. The results led to the identification of seven challenges and eleven strategies. The main challenges in priority order are: multiplicity of policy decision making and planning institutions; lack of clarity in main goals and orientations; lack of specialized counseling services and guidance for students; introduction of Persian as the only language for teaching and learning; low level of education and welfare facilities; attracting students from least developed countries; and lack of the culture of interaction and empathy between Iranian and non-Iranian students.